Kim Kardashian, Sofia Vergara and Khloe Kardashian carry Birkins
Westlake High School

Birkin bag: a purse for the rich

Hermes is a French luxury brand created by Thierry Hermes in 1837. His original intent was to create saddles, bridles, and more for French noblemen. Though over the years, the brand Hermes has gained status as one of the world’s most valuable luxury brands, and with its unique manufacturing and distribution process, Hermes holds a highly esteemed position of superiority among other high-end brands.

One of Hermes’ most coveted products is the Birkin bag, named after actress and singer Jane Birkin. This idea of this exclusive purse was introduced by Jean-Louis Dumas, former Hermes CEO, to Jane Birkin during a flight from Paris to London. When given the offer to design and name a holdall after her, Jane Birkin was “flattered to death and said yes, yes, yes.”

This expensive handbag, first known as the Birkin in 1981, can start for about $7,000 each, but could easily go up to $300,000, depending on the material. The high price is justified by the great amount of time and skill that goes into creating this bag. Each purse is created by the work of a single craftsman, who spends between 18 to 24 hours to complete his or her work of art.

Recently, on June 13, a second-hand Hermes Birkin bag was sold for $217,144 in London, setting the European record for the most expensive handbag sold in an auction. Another Hermes Birkin, sold for $380,000, broke the world record for the most expensive bag sold at auction in Hong Kong in 2017.

Hermès 35 Bag Blanc Himalaya Exquisite Skin Limited Edition

This specific 2008 Himalaya Birkin was made from nilo crocodile hide and featured a diamond encrusted 18-carat white gold lock.

Due to the Birkin’s overall extortionate price, this infamous handbag is seen far more on the arms of celebrities, such as Victoria Beckham, Jennifer Lopez, and the Kardashians.

However, this begs the question: why is it so difficult to obtain a Birkin bag?

The truth is, Hermes will not let just anyone buy a Birkin bag. According to auction house expert Max Brownawell, “Your average woman can’t just walk into Hermes and buy one. You’d have to have a long-standing relationship with one of their sales associates.”

Even then, Hermes prides itself on selling this bag only to the elite or those who are surprisingly wealthy. There are countless stories of “ordinary” people who have tried to purchase a Birkin bag and have failed. Even if you have the money, if the Hermes salesperson does not believe in your worth, they refuse to sell to you.

Many of these failed attempts feature the common “No, We do not have any available in this store right now” comment given by seemingly perfect salespeople. They do not take orders, and there is no real waitlist, making it even more difficult for people to get their hands on this bag.

Every day, hundreds of people wait in front of the Hermes store to be given the opportunity of buying an Hermes product, maybe even a Birkin bag. However, in the past, Hermes created an appointment system in which people would be given an appointment if the salesperson deemed them worthy enough to purchase something valuable. This process was created to weed out resellers.

Yet, currently, Hermes has created an online appointment request system, eliminating the need for customers to wait in front of the store for an exorbitant amount of time. Although securing an appointment is still difficult and unpredictable, this system seems to be easier and more accessible to their customers.

Hermes’ Birkin bag distribution strategy seems to simple: sell the Birkin to only those that are wealthy and chic in order to maintain the important exclusivity of this purse. The reason for selling to celebrities is that it creates a greater desire and need amongst those that do not have this purse.

Is this process fair? Not necessarily, but it seems to be working for Hermes in creating an aura of wealth and luxury around the brand.